The Florida Keys provide the setting for love between a laid-back Brazilian dive instructor and a Wisconsin-bred trainee with secrets behind his ice-blue eyes.
Joaquim Oliveira, single-minded yet calm, left his loving family in São Paulo to work on his master scuba diver trainer license in Florida. The unpaid internship leaves him almost no time for fun, but when tattooed and pierced newcomer Reid Watsford signs up for classes, all bets are off. Reid just moved down from Eau Claire to look after his grandmother’s empty beachfront condo, and himself. After years of struggling with a rare mental illness and a family that couldn’t, or wouldn’t, fully support him, Reid is starting over. He's slowly learning how to cope with his rapid mood cycling and anxiety after years of self-injurious behavior and a suicide attempt, and the sunshine and sand of the Keys might be just what he needs. Reid doesn’t anticipate falling in love with Joaquim or the way his new situation might require new tools for managing his symptoms. While Reid’s cyclothymia is the focus, sometimes overly so, of this lightly plotted novel, Sierra (Idlewild, 2016) makes time for a series of warm and sexy encounters—a boozy beach party, a midnight swim, a dinner out, and, of course, scuba diving—any romance reader will appreciate. Joaquim is less well-developed, but his self-image as “chill” does take a hit when Reid’s defenses and irritability get under his skin. But now that he has experienced the difference between passive contentment and active happiness, Joaquim is not letting go. While the complexity and fragility of the coral ecosystem serve as obvious metaphors for Joaquim and Reid’s relationship, Sierra’s gentle invoking of the subtropical setting brings her characters to life, as when Reid tries to “transform the rasping cicada song into calm white noise.”
A realistic look at living and loving in the context of mental illness by an #ownvoices author that doesn’t lose sight of the romance.